So, what does it mean to be a leader?
Countless books and blogs consume oceans of silicon in attempting to define sales leadership, giving point-by-point tactics and hundreds of how-to's, and yet the issue of leadership often comes down to, "I know it when I see it".
Trying to define leadership often reminds me of a Lyndon Johnson quote just before an expected Supreme Court ruling on what constituted censored art, when he said... "I cannot tell you exactly what good art is, but if
you show it to me, I'll tell you whether it's good art or bad art."
Since we're now deep into the 2016 political swamp, complete with yesterday's "Donald's Marketing-Classic- of-the-Day" by taking on the Pope, we clearly have a wide variety of "interesting" candidates. At the same time, it's more than a little disconcerting to watch the debates among the candidates from both parties as I
personally continue to search for someone who demonstrates "true leadership". No political comments as to where my head and heart are even after my having voted last week in "The Live Free or Die State", but I
certainly do know that I'm still searching for that true definition of leadership.
For me, I Look for 3 Leadership Attributes in Business:
The Sine Wave Effect
Actually, the Dilbert cartoon above is not too far from one of the skills and attributes that I look for in my search for leadership.
- I do want someone that empowers.
- I do want someone that exudes true trust.
- And while I don't want anyone who is actually a micromanager, I do expect that leader to be very knowledgeable about the intimate details of the business.
Hence, one of my critical requirements in my definition of leadership is that that person needs to be able to move both effectively and quickly from the peak of the sine wave-let's label that as "strategy"- down to the bottom-let's label that as "tactics, activities & metrics"- knowing all of the critical details of operating and measuring the business.
I'm certainly not looking for the Pointy-Haired Micromanager on one hand, but I definitely expect that that leader is able to participate...at a detailed level...in discussions of the fundamental operating tactics and metrics of the business. A good example of why many of the individuals we often label as leaders (Eisenhower, Sun Tzu, Patton, Sam Houston), come out of the military since the best generals literally come up through the ranks and the chain of command.
Not so in many business managers, but give me a manager who started as a BDR in sales qualifying raw marketing leads, worked into a job as a rookie salesperson, struggled through their first assignment as a district manager, and became a successful head of sales, I know that i have many of the attributes and skills of what it takes to become a very effective leader.
Hands-on Sales and Sales Management Experience
I know that today I am very (ok, probably overly) sales-centric, and that sales processes, tools, technologies and metrics constantly bounce around in my head as I and my partners work with our various customers.
Sales being at the center of my universe today, I actually grew up in business on the manufacturing floors and in the engineering labs of Honeywell Computer Systems and Becton Dickinson Medical Systems, where by some mistake, fate and an odd alignment of the planets, I ended up running the spun-out medical device company, Datamedix.
For a first time president, never having run a sales or a marketing organization, the transition was "difficult" at best. Eventually it worked out and the company became a solid success, but it was only through bringing principles of process and measurement that I had learned in manufacturing and in engineering to the "slap-on-the-back-let's-have-dinner" Relationship Selling that then dominated the industry.
Today, the only VPs, Presidents, and CEOs that I can consider to be true business leaders are those that are proven sales and sales management warriors.
Only by living in the reality of managing today's' complex world of sales can true leaders
...that the job of "selling" is not to sell.
...that the job of "selling" is not to close deals.
...that the job of "a true sales leader" is to become is to become "a trusted partner"
Sure, sales success is always going to be measured by plan attainment and 10 other important metrics, but only a true sales leader realizes that...
...the true job of selling is to provide Customer Value by delivering their Company's Value Proposition perfectly, all of the time, in every opportunity situation.
Unless, that individual has crossed over the bridge from the world of "quota-only" to the promised land of providing measurable financial value to both new and existing customers, in my world, they can't be thought of as a true business leader.
A Leader Must Inspire
Being a leader, the head of a business or of anything else is a very tough, demanding and extraordinarily difficult job.
One can be a very strong manager, adept, and actually very successful at moving the business from one point to another, but in order to be able to accept that higher level of becoming a leader, that person must be able to inspire.
Over the long periods of battling market share in the personal computer space, there have been decades of senior managers who have come and gone at IBM, HP, Dell, and a host of other computer and device manufacturers, but only one Steve Jobs.
Jobs' intent was not to build a better machine at a better price with a more efficient operating system. His intent was to change the world. A tough taskmaster, a stickler for details at the bottom of the sine wave, and a manager who did not accept mediocrity, his ever-present leadership was to create a culture of pushing the organization to change the world which resulted in inspiring Apple's managers and employees to create one of the most highly valued companies in the world.
I believe that it is inspiration which is the bubble point between being a very successful manager and a true leader.
I'm sure that you can think of other business leaders who have this unique ability to inspire, and I'd love to read your comments which you can leave in the section below.
In the meantime...Good Selling!
Derby Management...for 25 years
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Jack's Cell: 617-504-4222